Spoon, "They Want My Soul" (Loma Vista)
After establishing a standard of excellence with five albums since the turn of the millennium, the Austin, Texas, rock band Spoon took a break after 2010's slightly less than excellent "Transference." Singer Britt Daniel paired off with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade to form the synthsational side project Divine Fits, while drummer/producer Jim Eno got busy knob-twiddling for bands such as Telekinesis and !!!.
The brief hiatus served the band well. Collaborating with a pair of producers — Joe Chiccarelli, who's worked with everyone from Tori Amos to Frank Zappa, and Dave Fridmann, who's closely associated with the Flaming Lips — Spoon does tweak its sound ever so slightly, playing around with electro-pop experimentalism on "Outlier," for instance.
But mostly, "They Want My Soul" is sharp, smart and concise, exactly what you would hope — and expect — a Spoon album to be. That goes for the meaty hooks that get things going with appropriate swagger on "Rent I Pay," and the grabby melody and jagged guitar breaks on the title cut, in which Daniel rails against anyone who might steal his mojo.
The special treat is "I Just Don't Understand," a 1961 Ann-Margret hit sung by principal Daniel influence John Lennon when the Beatles covered it on their BBC radio sessions. Here, it just sounds like another really good Spoon song.
Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Andy Grammer, "Magazines or Novels" (S-Curve)
Grammer seems like a good guy. The former Santa Monica busker landed the hit "Keep Your Head Up" the old-fashioned way — hard work and perseverance. But his sophomore album, "Magazines or Novels," feels like a desperate attempt to manufacture another hit. Instead of building his own sound, which he comes closest to on the catchy single "Back Home," Grammer ends up with cut-rate approximations of other artists. The faux-soulful "Red Eye" isn't quite Maroon 5, and the driving "Pushing" is a few steps shy of OneRepublic. The bland copying makes most of "Magazines or Novels" obsolete from the start.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday